Cubs have found a guy to build around in Nico Hoerner
After turning heads in the opening series against Milwaukee, it’s safe to say the Cubs have been nothing short of disappointing to start the 2022 campaign. Through 30 games, they’ve already put together three different three-game losing streaks, while only winning consecutive games once.
Injuries have piled up in the rotation and the offensive production we needed to see in order to compete just hasn’t been there. While things are gloomy in Chicago, there are no doubt some bright spots and one of those is Nico Hoerner. He’s shown that, when healthy, he’s everything the Cubs want in a core piece for the future.
Hoerner is the definition of a grinder and someone who’s going to give 110 percent whenever he steps foot on the field. The 2018 first-round pick out of Stanford never takes his opportunity for granted. The biggest concern with Hoerner is his ability to stay healthy but if he can keep himself game-ready, I have no doubt big things are in store for him.
The front office’s conservative nature during free agency could be the best thing for Hoerner and his career. Earning consistent starts at shortstop is showing everyone he has the talent to be a staple for this franchise.
Through 29 games, his offensive numbers aren’t anything to write home about. Batting .271 with an on-base percentage of .293 (a .689 OPS), he’s still a work in progress. However, he has posted a WAR of 1.0 already so far in 2022 and with his career average of .271 and .332 on-base-percentage, we should see some positive regression.
The biggest thing that makes Hoerner stand out and a key to the future of this franchise is his defense. He’s already posted an overall WAR of 1.0 and a defensive WAR of 0.6, which is 10th in all of baseball. He also leads the Cubs with five defensive runs saves. He’s showing flashes of the player he can become and making fans finally come to terms with not making a big splash at shortstop in free agency last winter.
Hoerner has a Willson Contreras-vibe to him and it makes it easy to become a fan of his. He gives it his all and prioritizes doing whatever it takes to help this team win. These highly-talented, grinders don’t come around every day and are the kind of players you want to build around. It remains to be seen what will happen with Contreras, but Hoerner is showing he’s someone the Cubs would be silly not to make long-term plans with.
Make no mistake: the future of the Cubs is brighter than you think
The most attractive apart of Hoerner is his age. At just 24 years old, he has a few years to be able to grow into his full potential. When you think about the young talent in this system that will be ready in a few years, the future of this Cubs team starts to have some juice to it. When the likes of Brennan Davis, Brailyn Marquez, Pete Crow-Armstrong and Caleb Killian arrive (not to mention a few others), the potential of this group gets scary. Having a developed Hoerner already in place at short gives the Cubs a young, highly drafted playmaker for the next wave to look up to.
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The Cubs may have a grind of a season ahead, but seeing bright spots like Hoerner start to make their mark gives fans excitement and hope for the future. As long as Jed Hoyer and this front office can effectively build around the young stars, big things are in store for this organization.